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Apparently there are 32 commodities for which there are futures available, but I don't understand how these 32 were chosen. Surely these can't be the top 32 most sought-after commodities-- the list doesn't even include steel! Yet it includes orange juice. It includes sugar, but not salt. Cattle and hogs, but not sheep or goats.

How is it determined which commodities get futures and which don't?

  • World of commodities is much bigger then you think. And not limited by futures. There is professional exchanges where forwards are traded, direct contracts for end-point commitment of commodity. – sanaris Jan 16 '18 at 12:37
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Firstly, steel futures trade on the London Metal Exchange, maybe on other exchanges as well. Perhaps your 32 number was limited to one exchange? I've not researched all the exchanges, but I'd wager there are far more than 32 commodities for which futures contracts can be entered into.

How is it determined which commodities get futures and which don't?

In general, demand. If there is enough demand for futures on a certain commodity some exchange will bother to support them. In some cases, demand may exist but government regulation could prohibit a futures market for a commodity.

Why didn't futures contracts exist on bitcoin until recently? Lack of demand, once enough people wanted them an exchange obliged.

Why is there demand for futures contracts on some commodities and not others? Well, cattle and hogs are far more valuable in the US than goats, and just like with crops, supply of both can be disrupted in any given year by weather/disease. You could simply say that price variability and high overall value in the economy are what create demand for futures contracts on a given commodity.

  • Good answer. Also explains (by extension) why salt, water, plastic, most fish and the like aren't traded. Futures are risk instruments. – hroptatyr Jan 16 '18 at 12:16

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